Saturday 30 June 2012

Game 20: Manhunter 1 - Shhh...I'm Hunting Abbots

Manhunter Journal Entry 1: “I have no idea why the Orbs have chosen me as a manhunter, but today was my first day on the job. I was awoken by an Orb staring me right in the face, and it was communicated to me that there was an explosion at Bellevue Hospital that I needed to investigate. My tracker suggested that the perpetrator placed an explosive on the side wall of the hospital to gain entrance for a short period, before visiting Trinity Church, Flatbush Bar and then finally Prospect Park after leaving. I spent the day visiting each site, with varying results. At the hospital I discovered the body of Reno Davis, riddled with baby Orbs. I have no idea whether he was dead prior to the explosion, but in all likelihood he was the target of the perpetrator. My time at the church was fruitless, but as soon as I entered Flatbush Bar I was set upon by locals. They forced me to play a knife game which I thankfully passed without injury. The leader then made a symbol with his body, which later made sense once I reached the restrooms at the park. Flushing the toilet three times, I was transported underground where I made my way through a maze, collecting keycards and a medallion on the way. My day ended when I retrieved a data stick from a man at Coney Island, which he gave to me after witnessing my medallion. Now I just need to figure out what the data on the stick means!”

Day 1: Seems a good place to start.

Manhunter sure is an interesting game! Whether or not it’s a good game is yet to be determined, but it sure is unlike anything else I’ve played before. I’ve gone through many emotional phases during my first two and a half hours of play, including confusion, intrigue, excitement, frustration and satisfaction. In the end I’ve managed to get through day one of the game unscathed, although I don’t yet know whether the game holds any dead ends or accumulating nasties. Before I get into what exactly occurred and how I dealt with it, I have to mention the most striking thing when playing the game for the first time...the visuals!

I don't know what's scarier. The fact that there's a giant eyeball in front of me or the fact it can somehow communicate with me!

My first response was something close to disgust, which certainly wasn’t helped by an opening scene with a ridiculous looking giant floating eyeball “talking” to me in a room with bright fluorescent pink floor and green ceiling. My feelings have shifted over time however, mostly due to the strange tone of the game (being both violent and comical) actually fitting the unusually slipshod graphical style, but also due to the sheer number of graphical displays and animated flourishes that are used. Little details are included everywhere and multiple angles and viewpoints are given when only one might have sufficed. It may for once actually be a case of quantity over quality!

No stone is left unturned in Manhunter. Even getting out of bed is animated.

So what’s Manhunter all about? As mentioned in the intro, I awoke to receive instructions from an Orb, telling me to investigate an incident at the local hospital. I have no idea how the Orb actually communicated this to me and can only assume some form of telepathy was involved, but I guess it doesn’t make any difference. I was then shown a recording of the events leading up to and following the explosion on my laptop (called a Manhunter Assignment Device or MAD for short). This was all handled from a top down perspective, and I was able to watch the perpetrator move from location to location, spending time at inanimate objects before moving on. I’d already read the manual at this point, so I was aware that the most efficient way to be a Manhunter was to close the MAD each time the perpetrator leaves a location, then visit that location to investigate before opening up again and continuing until the connection is lost. With that in mind, the hospital would be my first place of interest.

The MAD display: Actually quite cool!

The_MAD_Map: Why is it so angry all the time!?

As soon as I closed the MAD I was shown a map containing a flashing marker for my apartment and a cursor I could move around with the keys (sadly, no mouse control is available for the game). I moved the cursor around until I found another highlighted location, which was the hospital. I won’t bang on about it every time I go to a new location, but it was nice to see firstly a full picture of the hospital, then closer shot of the side of the building where the explosion took place, before finally the scene settled on a close-up of the hole in the wall where control was handed over to me. This is how all locations are handled, giving you a really good sense of where you are and what you’re looking at. Anyway, the only thing I was able to do from this screen was enter the hospital through the hole, so that’s what I did.

I'm sure there are easier ways to get into a hospital.

I was then faced with what I assumed was a dead body in a hospital bed and a robot guard stopping me from gaining entrance to any other parts of the hospital. Moving my cursor over the body displayed two separate sections that I could investigate (the cursor turns into a magnifying glass).  I chose the upper part of the body first, and it’s here that I received my first game over screen. Rather oddly, what first appeared to be the victims own eyes turned out to be baby Orbs that flew out of his skull. These were followed by hundreds of others that came out of the open torso and apparently ate me. I don’t really know exactly how eyeballs eat things when they have no mouths, but the Murry siblings popped up onscreen to inform me of the outcome before taking me back a few minutes before I made my fatal mistake. Well, the game might be brutal, but at least it gives you infinite chances to get things right without having to restore.

Why is it that none of the humans in Manhunter actually look human, except for the Murry's?

Sierra developers never seem to get enough of putting themselves into their own games?

While looking at the upper torso resulted in my death, somehow looking at the lower torso had no such effect. Attached to the toe of the victim was a name card with the words Reno Davis written on it. I immediately remembered from the manual that I was able to look up names in my MAD, so I navigated to the INFO section and typed in Reno Davis to see what it had to say about the poor sod. All I found out was that Reno was a 38 year old manhunter that had previously been transferred to Chicago. I still have no idea why a manhunter from Chicago was in New York in the first place, nor how he came to be in the hospital. I don’t even know whether he was already dead when the perpetrator entered the hospital or whether he was murdered at that time. Blowing up a wall and then setting hungry baby Orbs on a hospital patient seems a rather overcomplicated way of offing someone, but who knows what we’re dealing with here. There was nothing else to see at the hospital so I opened the MAD to see where the suspect went next.

Reno....(soft piano)...was it me you were looking for?

Reno didn't look any more attractive when he was alive.

After leaving the hospital the dot on the screen made its way to the Trinity Church, stood in front of a particular section for a while, and then left. I closed the MAD once again and followed the same path on the overhead map that he or she took to the church. Once inside, it became apparent that the perpetrator stood in front of the alcove on the left and lit some candles before leaving, perhaps asking for the sins of their recent crimes to be forgiven. I was able to light the match and light any or all of the fifteen candles, but nothing happened. I can only assume that I need to light very particular candles to achieve something, but since I’ve not come across anything to tell me what that order might be, I decided to move on. There was nothing else of interest in the church, so I left it behind for now and made my way to the next location of interest...the Flatbush Bar.

Churches in adventure games. I may have to devote a post to the subject one day.

This part of the game was at first a bit confusing to be honest.  I could see, after comparing the recording on the MAD display to the bar layout on arrival, that whoever blew a hole the wall of the hospital took time out from their escape to play an arcade game. They didn’t seem to talk to anyone in the bar during their visit, so I felt no need to tag any of the customers that I could see on the MAD. This is an ability that I know from reading the manual, but haven’t needed at this stage. Tagging people means you can then follow their movements as well. I decided the only thing to do was to play the arcade game, but as soon as I tried, the locals at the bar grabbed me and forced me to join them in a bout of knife throwing. They first held my hand down while one of them threw knives between my spread fingers before handing me a bunch of knives and demanding I return the favour. It was here that I faced my first action sub-game, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

Never piss a jawa off...

While it wasn’t very difficult to successfully pass the test by throwing the knives at just the right times, I did get it wrong a few times, causing the knife to lodge in the man’s finger and blood to ooze out onto the table. Obviously that little accident wouldn’t please the guy, but I was pretty shocked when he picked me up by the head and squeezed until my skull exploded and my brain stuck to the ceiling, then threw my headless torso into the street. Brutal! The game really only gets away with this sort of stuff because the graphics are so low in quality the whole thing looks comical. The intended humour was made abundantly clear when the Murry family once again appeared on screen to mock my failure before giving me another opportunity to succeed. Succeed I did on about the fourth try, but reward for victory was a little unusual to say the least.

...especially when he has a large collection of knives.

The leader stood in front of me and enacted what appeared to be a very bad clothes-hanger break-dancing move. I say “very bad” because he was only using one arm while wobbling his head from side to side.  I should point out at this point that I missed this signal entirely on my first play through this section because I was trying to get screenshots of what was going on. In fact, capturing all the little nuances that occur during Manhunter has been much more difficult than during the slow-paced stop and proceed nature of most adventure games. It makes me realise how difficult it must be for Chet to capture appropriate screenshots while playing RPGs without restoring a billion times. Getting back on track, since I’d not actually witnessed the failed attempt at street dancing at this point, I just figured passing the knife test was simply a way of being able to play the arcade game, so that’s what I did next.

I kinda missed this...which turned out to be kinda important.

The arcade game was called Halls, Walls, Balls & Dolls, and involves moving a character through a maze of passages, collecting kewpie dolls on the way. I figured the goal of the game was not merely to get through the maze to the exit, but to collect all the dolls on the way, so I set about achieving that goal. It wasn’t difficult, particularly as I could save and restore as many times as I wanted to, meaning it was only a matter of time. Winning the game resulted in a “You Won” screen with fireworks, but nothing else came from the victory, making me wonder what the whole bar scene had been about. I’d gained no information, nor had I picked up any items. Oh well...there was still another location to visit, so I hoped the bar’s purpose might become obvious at a later time.

Halls, Walls, Balls & Dolls: Does what it says on the box!

The next location was Prospect Park, and more specifically, the restrooms at Prospect Park. The tracker on the MAD implied that the perpetrator entered the female restroom and used the toilet before disappearing off the radar for good. I made my way into the restrooms, went straight to the cubicle in question, and tried to find something that might hint as to where they went or what they did next. The only thing that I could do was sit down on the toilet, which apart from looking really very funny in a monk outfit, achieved nothing. While sitting down I was able to flush the toilet by pushing the lever down, but that didn’t seem to add anything of value to proceedings. I was a bit perplexed to be honest, wondering why Ilmari and the like had suggested Manhunter was unlikely to offer up too much of a challenge. Was I losing my mojo??!!

When you gotta go...

After exploring all the other cubicles in both the male and female restrooms, I decided the only thing to do was to start over and pay more attention at each location. My initial expectation was that the missing link was likely to be at the church, since I’d not achieved anything at all there, but I still couldn’t find anything that suggested what the candles were for. It was only when I reached the bar and passed the knife throwing test for a second time that I witnessed the leader’s signal, and had a eureka moment! He was making a toilet flushing motion, and not only that, he was doing it three times! I restored back to the restroom, flushed the toilet three times, and watched with great satisfaction and relief (feelings that are often associated with toilets) as my character was lowered down into an underground tunnel system.

Toilet Cam: For when it's important the audience gets a great view of the action.

The arcade game may have offered up the most basic of maze systems, but the underground section certainly didn’t! It soon became apparent that I was going to have to revert to my trusty Excel map-making skills learnt during years of playing old school RPGs like Might & Magic. I spent about half an hour mapping the underground tunnels, collecting keycards on the way, and was surprised to find a 12 x 13 grid (give or take a couple of cells) once done. I really hope no kids out there tried to find their way through this section without mapping it out, particularly if you need all twelve keycards, which is yet to be seen. When I eventually found the exit into a cave opening, I was rewarded for my trouble with a medallion with a crossed out Orb on it. Its message surely couldn’t be more obvious, but its use was at the time a mystery to me. I wondered what I was going to do next, given that I’d now followed all the leads given to me, but the answer came as soon as left the cave.

Important Message: As tempting as it is, please refrain from flushing your keycards down the toilet!

We will know you're one of us if you wear this highly discreet medallion. They'll never know that you're part of the rebellion!

Another location was lit up on the map right near the cave exit, entitled Coney Island. Happy to have some path to follow, I quickly made my way there to find it was the fun park that appeared when I won the arcade game in the bar. The fun park contained three skill-testing games that I could take part in, all of which involved throwing items at other items. I could pop balloons with darts, throw rings onto bottles, or knock over dolls with baseballs. Successfully hitting three items on any of them resulted in me winning a replica orb toy, but I figured there was surely something else I was supposed to do here. The kewpie doll game sure seemed suspicious, particularly given the connection the scene already had to the arcade game. It suddenly dawned on me that the hint for the fun park must come from the arcade game, so I went back to play it again.

How many ways can you throw things at things?

Long story short (and it did take me a while for some reason), I eventually figured out that if I followed the most direct path through the maze on the video game, I collected only three baseballs and knocked over three very specific kewpie dolls (the third one in the first row, the second one in the second row, and the fourth one in the third row). Replicating this exact combination in the kewpie doll skill-testing game at the fun park resulted in the man giving me a very strange look. The meaning of this look, which was that he was waiting for me to give him something, may very well have avoided me if the Murry’s hadn’t popped up to say “I wonder what that odd look was for?” and then a more direct “He wants to see something you have!” when I won a second time. I gave him the medallion I’d found at the end of the maze and was rewarded with a data stick!

Thankfully the man who gave me the card appeared entirely trustworthy

This is pretty much where this first session ended (which is just as well as you guys are probably bored by now). After placing the stick in the MAD I received a riddle before the Orbs overrode the message. “The end is near, the way is clear, destroy the lady, before they are ready. Phil is trouble, he’s a double, he’s an eye, that’s no lie!” Besides being one of the worst examples of poetry I’ve ever come across, this message didn’t really make anything that was happening any clearer, and I was more confused when the Orbs suddenly told me that I’d had enough time and demanded “a name”. The only name I’d come across so far was Reno Davis, so that’s the one I typed in. The orbs demanded that I go back to my apartment and await further instructions, and I have no idea whether this answer was “correct” or not. Since they seem to be demanding the name of the perpetrator and not the victim, it’s likely that I haven’t given them what they were after, but there doesn’t appear to have been any consequences. Oh two awaits, so I’m off to find out whether there are any repercussions to my failure.

I'm starting to think that a game with no dialogue was a great choice for the Murry's!

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 00 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've recently written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Thursday 28 June 2012

Game 20: Manhunter 1 - Introduction

It's actually quite sad to see the twin towers in a game set in 2004.

Finally I’m ready to move on from Larry 2 to the 20th game on the list, Manhunter: New York. It’s yet another Sierra game that I’ve never played and one that has always intrigued me. In fact, a good friend of mine talked about how much he loved this game for years, encouraging me to play it. Unfortunately, that same friend recently cranked up DOSBox and played the game again, two decades after his original life-changing experience. He refuses to talk about it much, but it’s clear that his recent play through all but destroyed the wonderful memories he had from his childhood. In short…he wasn’t impressed. I however, have no Manhunter nostalgia to crush, so will go into this with fresh eyes and an open mind. Before I get underway, it’s worth looking at how the game came about and how it fits into the Sierra timeline.

The box artwork sets the dark tone that the title screen fails to do.

Manhunter: New York was created by a company called Evryware, which was made up of what I assume is three siblings. Barry, Dave and Dee Dee Murry developed the game for Sierra On-Line back in 1988. Barry seems to have been the leader of the gang, being involved in the design, programming, graphics and music (Dave had a hand in the design and programming while Dee Dee assisted with graphics). This wasn’t the family’s first attempt at making a game however, as Barry and Dave had already had a fair amount of success with their The Ancient Art of War games, which were published by Brøderbund. In fact, it was the quality of those games that caused Sierra to get in touch with them to see whether they wanted to create a game for them using the AGI engine that the company had already built an empire with. Jumping at the opportunity, the Murry brothers were not satisfied with simply taking the technology and running with it. Instead, they decided to make something far removed from the standard Quest games Sierra were known for.

The Murry family, dressed in the monk robes (hired from a local costume shop) that the Orbs force humanity to wear.

After many months of design, the Murry’s finally decided their game would have much more mature themes than the likes of King’s Quest and Space Quest. It would be set 16 years in the future (2004 to be precise) and would have dark and at times gory themes. It would use real life locations, and they even spent two days in New York photographing locations that would make an appearance in the game. They chose New York as the city because they felt it lent itself well to the gritty, bleak landscape they had in mind. The backstory goes that the Earth has been enslaved by aliens known as the Orbs (giant floating eyeballs). The Orbs have implanted tracking devices in all surviving humans to keep them under control and it’s a capital offence for any human to speak at any time. Certain humans are enlisted by The Orbs as “Manhunters”, with the role of tracking down fellow humans that make any attempt to form an underground resistance. The protagonist of the game is one such Manhunter!

An Orb: Apparently the Murry's made them look like this purely because it was easy to animate.

It’s definitely worth noting that Manhunter uses Sierra’s AGI engine rather than the SCI engine that both King’s Quest IV and Leisure Suit Larry 2 utilised in the same year. I can’t find anything concrete, but I assume Manhunter was developed and released prior to those two games in 1988, making me wish I’d played them in that order. Still, this doesn’t look like a standard AGI game as the Murry’s totally messed with the system to make it do what they wanted. The end result is a game with no text parser whatsoever, making it the first Sierra published game to have a complete point and click interface. This path was chosen mostly due to the fact that no characters in the game were allowed to speak, so a substitute form of control was created. Manhunter: New York also includes a “first person perspective, bizarre camera angles, picture-in-a-picture, long pans, extreme close-ups, overhead shots and a faux 3-D sequence”, making it a truly unique game in the Sierra adventure canon to date.

Blade Runner: An obvious inspiration for Manhunter.

The influence of Blade Runner on Manhunter: New York is obvious, but it’s interesting that the player is enlisted to track down humans rather than the “replicants” that Decker chases in that masterpiece. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out, but I have to admit that the screenshots do not look appealing from a visual point of view. I’ve downloaded a DOS version of the game and plan to run it in DOSBox and also got my hands on the manual and a map that came with the original packaging. The manual is called the Official Manhunter’s Field Guide (Planet Earth Edition) and it describes the alien invasion through journal entries written by the protagonist. It also has the notice that was sent to all those humans selected to be Manhunters, which describes the obligations of the chosen along with the devices that are used to fulfil them. It’s a nice touch and makes me eager to get going!

I miss the days of manuals like this one. They really do get you in the mood to play!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've recently written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 points (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Multiple readers can predict the same score, but will be rewarded a decreasing amount of points if it turns out to be correct.

Example Bet:
Bet: V cerqvpg lbh jvyy trg fghpx va gur zhq. Zl vavgvnyf ner WJ naq V yvxr pbzvp obbxf. Jub nz V?

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Game 19: Leisure Suit Larry 2 - Final Rating

Alright, I'm back on the ground in Australia, had a couple of days to get over my jetlag, and am raring to get back into playing and blogging. It's actually been quite a while since I finished Larry 2, but looking over the near 200 screenshots I took reminded me of all the highlights and frustrations. My gut feeling says that while the game overall was entertaining, and at times hilarious, it's unlikely to do very well on the PISSED scale. There were some significant issues with the story and the technology that will undoubtedly make it fall short of the first game's 57.

Puzzles and Solvability
It’s difficult to talk about the puzzles and solvability of Larry 2 without discussing the very serious parser issues that pop up throughout the game. However, since that’s really a problem with the interface, I’ll try to ignore those for this category. Even if I ignore the difficulty the parser creates, there were plenty of other things that made the game rather challenging, not least of all a large amount of possible dead ends. Out of every game I’ve played so far, Larry 2 must surely have the most dead ends, with all of them being caused by not discovering some well hidden item much earlier on. I got caught out by this a few times, including arriving at the island without the bikini top, but I can see potential for many, many more. In fact, most of your time is spent collecting random items and then applying them to puzzles you come across later on, rather than finding an item and then applying it to a previously discovered challenge. If you don’t have an item to solve something, chances are it’s too late to get it! It doesn’t feel very satisfying.
Rating: 4

Just about every puzzle in Larry 2 is solved by dying first, then trying to avoid it later.

Interface and Inventory
Blah blah interface blah blah. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll already know the general story when it comes to the Sierra interface. That being said, the two main topics of conversation when discussing either the AGI or the SCI engines are movement and the parser. Movement is handled well in Larry 2, with very few occasions where you’re forced to negotiate ridiculous mazes or stairways. The cliff-side walkway is an exception of course, but this is clearly a piss-take of previous Sierra games and a funny one at that. The parser though has inexcusable problems that simply must be punished. There were three cases in the game where I knew exactly what it was I needed to do, but simply couldn’t find the correct commands. When my first attempts failed, I then went on lengthy wild goose chases trying to find something else to do when in fact, I was right in the first place. Filling the bikini top with money, purchasing the snack at the airport, and putting together the Molotov at the top of the volcano are all potentially insanely frustrating due only to the extremely specific commands the game accepts to make them happen. Inventory is the same as King’s Quest IV, which means you can see each item but have no ability to seek further description of them.
Rating: 4

After typing "put soap in bikini", I received "It's not yours to drop" in response. There are lots of these anomalies, which are made worse by the fact that what I was trying to do was right!

Story and Setting
In hindsight Larry 2 is a very strange game. It begins with an intro that shows Dr. Nonookee on his island, surrounded by women in his underground lair, and ends with Larry entering the lair and defeating Nonookee with no interaction from the player whatsoever. Nonookee plays no role at all between these two scenes! If this wasn’t strange enough, Larry has no awareness of Nonookee at all until he very randomly arrives at his island after inexplicably jumping out of an aeroplane, despite the fact KGB agents and Nonookee’s henchman are chasing him because he has an onklunk in his possession that he was given after accidentally saying a secret password at the right place. It may very well be that Al Lowe was attempting to mess with standard story conventions, but the contrived nature of the plot, and the fact Larry (and therefore the player) has absolutely no motives to do pretty much anything he does, just comes across as lazy. If you don’t do the right things at the right times, you die. But there’s no way you could possibly know what the right things to do are, unless you die. Once again, it’s pretty unsatisfying stuff!
Rating: 4

Oh look...a lifeboat! Well I better get in it and leave this cruiser behind. Sounds like a plan!

Sound and Graphics
Being the second game to use the SCI engine, there’s no doubt Larry 2 is a big step up from Larry I when it comes to sound and graphics, yet somehow it doesn’t feel quite as impressive as King’s Quest IV. The resolution may be higher, but the actual illustrations and animations are not on par with the aforementioned game, nor is the quality of the sound. There’s still a significant lack of sound in the game and while King’s Quest IV had stacks of unique and lush sounding pieces of music popping up regularly, Larry 2 doesn’t have quite the same impact. This is probably all due to the fact Al Lowe pretty much single-handedly created the game, which is no mean feat, particularly given the length of it. If there is a positive, it’s that the music is slightly more memorable, even if the quality of the production isn’t quite what it could be. Obviously I can’t keep increasing my scores for this category as technology improves over time, as there’re only a maximum of ten points on offer, but it wouldn’t seem right to give Larry 2 the same score as the first game. I’m going to give it a generous 6, but only because it was released very close to the time of King’s Quest IV. Future games are going to have to offer more.
Rating: 6

Graphically and audibly, Larry 2 sits somewhere between Larry 1 and King's Quest IV.

Environment and Atmosphere
Larry 2 covers numerous varied environments ranging from Los Angeles, a cruise ship, an island resort, an aeroplane, and then finally the island where Dr. Nonookee resides. It’s all produced well enough, with lots of life and colour. It’s fairly noticeable that several locations serve very little purpose to solving any puzzles or even furthering the plot, and instead merely act as humorous devices. The restaurant on the island resort is a case in point, where the player watches a joke unfold for in advance of five minutes, before finally being free to pick up a knife and leave, unable to return. The atmosphere is one of sheer lunacy, with the unexpected occurring with regularity and most conversations spiralling into hilarious madness at a rapid pace. I love the fact that there are identical barber shops in every location, which is a good example of the way Al Lowe uses circular humour without it ever getting stale.
Rating: 6

Who would have thought adventure gaming was a spectator sport!

Dialogue and Acting
This is undoubtedly where Larry 2 shines. It’s by far the funniest game I’ve played so far and often the player interaction takes a backseat to the comedy. Drawn out “cut scenes” such as the matchmaking TV show and the pre-marriage manhood test are testament to the creator’s brilliant sense of comedy. Other highlights are the dream sequence in the barber shop and the inappropriate comments of the flight attendant, but I’m not even scratching the surface of the game’s delightful dialogue. Unfortunately, the player doesn’t really have much to do with any of this, and there are still no signs of real verbal interaction with characters. I thought for a moment this barrier was about to be broken during the game show when I was required to answer contestant questions, but it turned out that it didn’t make any difference what I answered. This is as close to a 7 as I’ve got so far, but Larry 2 didn’t take any evolutionary steps, so I have to stick to a 6.
Rating: 6

One thing's for sure. Al Lowe had a lot of fun writing this game!

So that's 50 for the Leisure Suit Larry sequel, which is a bit disappointing considering the high hopes I had for it going in. While it perhaps feels a little harsh given how much I enjoyed it, I simply couldn't ignore the game's flaws when handing out the points. Speaking of points...

Companion Assist Points for Larry 2
It’s time to dish out (and perhaps deduct) some points for those that predicted things and assisted me along the way.

Alfred placed a bet: “I bet you ten points you will get killed repeatedly by the mama in your cabin at the beginning of the ship section and will need assistance to get past her.” I actually didn’t have any trouble with the mama at all. I intentionally let myself be killed by her once and then figured out that I needed to get off the boat quickly before she killed me again, but since I needed no assistance, this prediction was incorrect. Deducting 10 points from Alfred!

10 points to Chumazik and Ilmari for letting me know about Trite Phrase and Filth Level options.

16k placed a bet: “I bet you 10 points that you will be stuck when trying to put the bag in the bottle at the volcano and lighting the bag. My friend and I were stuck on this for over a week. It's a parser problem you need to use 'the' before bag and bottle.” I did indeed get stuck here and needed assistance, so that’s 10 points to 16k! I know you didn’t actually have any points to bet 16k, but I’ve decided to be lenient in this instance as it was our first attempt at the betting.

5 points to Bleaghhh for commenting about the indie adventure pack at Bundle in a Box.

Ilmari placed a bet: “I predict that you will not get past the KGB agents at the beach without assistance (the puzzle where you need cross-dressing).” This was a very good prediction as I did indeed get very stuck here. But…since I made it through without assistance, I have to deduct 10 points from Ilmari for an incorrect prediction. Fenrus made a counter prediction, but wasn’t willing to put any points up. I might have paid it out if he had. Will have to think about that for future.

Nikolaj was once again the reader to correctly predict my score! I’ve decided to give him 20 points for getting it right twice in a row and will increase the score by 10 each time if he can keep the roll going!

Eugene responded to a Request For Assistance. He gave me a hint, but it wasn’t in the ideal format, so I’m going to give him 5 points for it.

Lars-Erik responded to a Request For Assistance. His was in the ideal format, so it’s 10 points!

Lars-Erik answered my question regarding how to ideally get the passport. 5 points!

Lars-Erik gets another 10 points for suggesting The Porterhouse Pub and Waxy O’Connors in London. Both were excellent, particularly Waxy which was totally brilliant!

rmdesign gets 5 points for explaining how to “have your way” with the maid on the resort.

Lars-Erik gets yet another 5 points for letting me know the correct command to “stuff the bikini with soap”

butsuri gets 5 points for explaining who the “natives” were at the airport

The Mad Gamer, Chumazik and Canageek responded to a Request for Assistance, but since they weren’t in the ideal format, I’m giving them 5 points each.

Ilmari gave an awesome explanation as to why the parser was so bad for some puzzles in the game, so he gets 5 points for that too.

10 points to Canageek for announcing the latest GOG sales…twice.

So, unless I’m mistaken, the following points will now be handed out:

30 Points – Lars-Erik
20 Points – Nikolaj
15 Points – Canageek and Chumazik
10 Points – 16k
5 Points – Bleaghhh, butsuri, Eugene, Ilmari, rmdesign and The Mad Gamer
-10 Points – Alfred n the Fettuc

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Game 19: Leisure Suit Larry 2 - Won!

Larry Laffer Journal Entry 5: "Finally I've found the woman of my dreams...again! I could never have imagined that my harrowing flight from KGB agents would end with me trying to save an island of natives from an evil villain named Dr. Nonookee. The guy had been capturing and hypnotising native women and had built his lair right on the native's ancestral burial grounds atop a volcano. After meeting Kalalau at the beach, we immediately fell deeply in love and decided to get married. Unfortunately, I had to remove Nonookee from the island before any marriage could go ahead, but before I could even attempt that I needed to pass Kalalau's father's manhood test. I don't really know how I did it, but I've managed to succeed on all counts, and have just spent the night making love to my beautiful new wife. Even the news that the company that owes me a million dollars a year has gone bankrupt can't dampen the feelings of happiness I have right now. Let's hope this lasts more than a few days!"

At the end of my last gameplay post, I'd just jumped out of an aeroplane...

Wow! I had no idea when I started Larry 2 that it was going to take me a total of 13 hours to complete it! That’s an hour and a half longer than the very challenging Mortville Manor and two and half hours longer than King’s Quest IV, the previous longest Sierra game. I don’t think it’s all that surprising that the games on the list are taking more time to complete as I go along, but I didn’t really expect it to occur so exponentially. It's also worth noting that I needed assistance from the readers twice when playing Larry 2, so the true total time that it might have taken me to complete the game will have to remain an unknown. I’ll save any further comments about the game's overall attributes to the Final Rating post, which unfortunately will have to wait until my return from France.

...and landed in a tree where I remained for a day or two.

Right, so at the end of my last gameplay post, I was hanging from a tree branch after jumping out of an aeroplane for very dubious reasons (i.e. none whatsoever). Getting out of the tree was easy enough, as I had a knife that I cut the parachute cords with. Unfortunately, the distance between the tree branch and the ground was rather large. My immediate thought was that I was going to have to restore and try to find a way to fall lightly, but surprisingly I didn’t die. However, the onklunk which I’d been carrying, and which had to this point been the sole reason for everyone chasing me, broke on impact with the ground. I have to say this confused me quite a bit! Surely the onklunk played a role in the game’s climax! If it’s only reason to exist was to inadvertently (and by complete and utter chance) lead me to the island of Dr. Nonookee, that’s a pretty awful plot device!

So why didn't I just break it days ago!?

I spent a while trying to think of any way that I might have avoided breaking the onklunk, but in the end I decided that if it had any purpose later on, the game would have informed me that I was screwed when I broke it. At least, that’s what I hoped! It was time to see what was on the island I’d seen in the introduction to the game. The game made a point of describing the ground’s texture, so I thought it might be worth looking at in more detail. I’m glad I did because I found a stick that I was able to pick up. That was all I was able to do mind you before I bumped a branch holding a beehive, causing the bees to swarm me and kill me. I avoided the branch the second time around by taking a very specific path, and was able to move to the next screen. As it turned out, I was merely walking into another obstacle.

Death by Anaconda: This island has more dangerous animals than Australia!

The next screen has a snake in a tree that I was going to have to avoid. I died quite a few times trying to find a path that wouldn’t result in it eating me, but eventually I tried using the stick I’d found on the previous screen, just as it was about to attack. It worked, and I jammed the stick into its mouth, causing it to scurry off into the jungle. I couldn’t find anything to pick up on the screen, so I moved onto the next one. What do you know?! Another obstacle! This time it was quicksand that I had to avoid, which I found out about fairly rapidly after sinking to my death after just a couple of steps. Fortunately the path through the deadly sand was pretty obvious, as it had a different colour to the rest. I still died once trying to cross it successfully, but it didn’t offer a lot of challenge.

Death by Quicksand: At least I sank quickly.

So that’s three screens down on the island and all three contained nasty obstacles that required a little bit of thought to get past. I entered the fourth screen fully prepared for another death dealing complication. I wasn’t disappointed! I found myself confronted by water, with numerous vines hanging above it. It was already clear that I was going to have to swing across the vines to avoid falling in the water, but my curiosity led me to walk straight in to see what would happen. Surprisingly I was able to walk through the water unopposed, although I was informed of a soft tickling feeling in my legs. It was only when I walked out the other side that the reality set in. The lower part of my body had no flesh left on it, eaten away by piranhas. I had to laugh at my misfortune and restored back to the other side. This time I swung across the vines by typing “use vine” three or four times in a row (thank heavens for the F3 function) to safely reach the shore without injury.

Death by Piranhas: One of the funnier death scenes so far, not to mention post death mocking.

So far, so good, and things were about to get much better for our underdog Larry. The next screen was a beach, and coming out of the water was a “beautiful native girl” waving at me. Not only did she seem eager to converse with me, she was also TOPLESS!!!!! I have very mixed feelings about what occurs after meeting Kalalau. On the one hand, control is taken away from the player for close to ten minutes! On the other hand, the whole scene is hilariously written, and showcases Al Lowe’s real talent for comedy. I’ll give you a quick rundown of what occurs, but what it’s all really about is giving Larry a reason to try to defeat Dr. Nonookee, because let’s face it, there have been little to no motives to anything he’s done to this point.


In a nutshell, Kalalau and Larry immediately fall in love and pash for a while, but are unable to have sex due to a strict native law that demands a couple be married before doing the horizontal dance. They decide to get married, but marriage has been forbidden until someone removes Dr. Nonookee from the ancestral burial grounds atop the volcano. They then go off to meet Kalalau’s father, hoping to convince him that Larry is worthy of her hand in marriage. The father, named Kenawauwau, demands that Larry prove his manhood by passing an initiation involving something called the Sacred Peesea. The Peesea turns out to be a PC, which Larry has to write a program on to prove his worth. He does so, creating a program called Eunochs (get it?) in the process, all while a native peddles on a bike connected to a battery to give the PC power. Talk about writing what you know! Al Lowe injected so much of his personality and interests into this game that it’s difficult to distinguish between the character and the creator at times.

Wow...that really is true love!

After all of the above is over, I found myself left standing on a ledge with one purpose. To find Dr. Nonookee and to remove him from the island somehow! I immediately had a problem to resolve however, which was to get over the rather large crevice in front of me. I only had matches, the airsick bag and the rejuvenator bottle in my possession, and I was unable to find any way to get across. I did have a fairly obvious “eureka” moment however, when I was reminded of all the vines I used to get over the water a few screens back. On restoring to that screen, I was indeed able to get one of the vines, and after quickly rushing through all the plot development that I described above, I used that vine to swing across the crevice to the other side. There would be no turning back from here, as the branch I tied to the vine broke off and fell into the crevice, stranding me on that side. I hoped I had everything I needed. I didn’t!

A little bit of motivation goes a long way!

I found myself confronted by a glacier, with some very slippery steps leading up the mountain. I tried climbing them to no avail, as I kept sliding back down. At first I figured this was going to be another maze puzzle like the tongue in the whale in King’s Quest IV, but it soon became apparent that I was not going to be climbing up unassisted. I tried melting the ice with the matches and the inflammable rejuvenator, but had no success. I was stuck, and started wracking my brain back to previous screens, hoping to remember something that might help me. I restored all the way back to the beginning of the island, and took extra time looking for something I could tie to my feet, or something textured I could throw on the ice. I also figured I might be able to type something while control was taken away from me when meeting Kalalau, but that also turned out to be a false hope. I soon found myself standing on the ledge again ready to throw the vine, with nothing extra in my inventory. It’s only then that I had a thought!

That's about as high as I could get before sliding back down.

It hadn’t occurred to me before, but I suddenly wondered whether I could walk back into the village the same way Kenawauwau had led me out of it. I’d had no control of Larry through that whole section, but now I’d regained control, I could do a bit of exploring. All the natives had gone inside, and it didn’t take me long to find what I needed. In fact, I found two possible “items” that I might be able to use on the ice. The ashes from a burnt out fire and some sand from the beach where I met Kalalau! With these in my inventory, I swung across the crevice and made my way back to the icy steps. I tried using both the sand and the ashes and it seems either would have been enough to make the steps climbable (a hardly impressive case of multiple solutions). I made my way upwards, realising the end up the game was approaching. It wouldn’t be long now...or so I thought!

There's not really any doubt is there?! Of course I have magical powers!

At the top of the volcano were an elevator with a door that wouldn’t open and a crevice with steam coming out of it. I could see no way to do anything with the elevator, so I focussed my attention on the crevice. When I tried to “use rejuvenator” near the crevice, the game told me that “this area is not conducive to bombing. Try again somewhere else.” I couldn’t really go very far on the screen due to some rocks blocking the way, but I couldn’t find anywhere else that was “conducive to bombing”. I tried using the matches, which resulted in me dropping one in the rejuvenator and blowing myself to pieces. This turned out to be useful however, as the game told me that “next time you make a Molotov cocktail, why not try using a wick?!” OK, so I needed to make a Molotov out of the rejuvenator and the sick bag, and then light it with the matches. Easy right!?

Larry called upon his newly gained magical powers, trying to open the door with his mind.

“Use bag on bottle” resulted in the same “not conducive for bombing” message. So did “put bag in bottle” and every other combination I could think of. I was going to need to find the right place to make the bomb before I could even attempt to make it, which is stupid. Eventually I found the exact spot (and I mean exact) right next to the crevice that was apparently “conducive to bombing”. I typed “put bag in bottle” and the game responded with OK. Hooray I thought! I’m getting somewhere! Yet...instead of making a wick, Larry threw the rejuvenator into the crevice, subsequently ending any chance I had of finishing the game. I tried a few other different ways of saying it, only for the exact same thing to happen. I was starting to get pretty frustrated by this point, and was also starting to doubt my whole approach to the puzzle. Was I missing something? I decided to put in a Request for Assistance.

A few seconds of exaltation...followed by disbelief and frustration.

A few minutes later, The Mad Gamer came to my rescue, by telling me I had to type “put the bag in the bottle”. This informed me of two things. Firstly, it absolutely rocks having you guys to help me through these tricky situations and I’m thrilled with the amount of time you’re all putting into this little community. Secondly, it confirmed to me that Leisure Suit Larry 2 has some very serious parser issues. As if my troubles filling my bikini earlier in the game hadn’t been bad enough, the game’s last puzzle is shocking. “Put bag in bottle” doesn’t work, but “put the bag in the bottle” does!? I don’t think I’ve ever typed “the” while playing a Sierra game. It’s always “look at house” or “get vine” or something like that. Anyway, it turns out you can say “put airsick bag in bottle” too, but I’d been calling the bag a bag all the way through the game to this point with success.

Well that was easy!

Anyway, while it might seem unfathomable, given that Larry’s task is to remove Dr. Nonookee from the island, the game pretty much wraps up with no further interaction after dropping the lit Molotov into the crevice. The explosion causes the elevator door to open, which Larry then walks into and falls down to where Dr. Nonookee is watching a bunch of women perform. Larry stumbles into the room and in a ridiculous string of good fortune, accidentally high fives a statue, causing it to activate the fortress Peacemaker Self-Defense Control Panel, which he then accidentally falls on, pressing the Auto Fire button, which causes a laser beam to fire and hit a piano, which just so happens to flip up and land on Dr. Nonookee. Job done!

I was just a spectator by this stage.

What a massive anticlimax, particularly after Nonookee was introduced and given some form of personality in the game’s introduction. I’m sure it’s Al Lowe taking the piss out of basic storytelling conventions, or perhaps he couldn’t see any way for the game to play out using the SCI engine and decided to simply end it. Either way, the women take their clothes off (of course), reverting back to their native ways, and carry Larry off to a helicopter, which flies him back to Kalalau, whom he marries in one the most bizarre, and admittedly very funny, wedding sequences ever. The native tradition includes spinning around until you throw up, rubbing pies in each other’s faces and then doing the moonwalk.

No wedding is complete without a bit of moonwalking

After the ceremony is over, the father takes Larry to his tent to give him a wedding present...a full head of hair! In yet another hysterical twist, the father is yet another barber, in a barber shop that looks just like all the others. As I watched the closing scene, which involves Larry and Kalalau running naked along the beach before having sex partially hidden by a plant on the beach, I feel a mix of anticlimactic disappointment and total entertainment satisfaction, not to mention the remnants of comedic glow and buggy programming induced frustration. Who knows what the PISSED Rating system is going to do to this game! I'm afraid you'll have to wait until next week...

At the least there was some sort of climax in the end.

Session Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 13 hours 00 minutes